JAMIE CURETON once again faces the R`s, as the top scorer will look to secure the Canaries` Championship safety this season.
The final away trip of the season has come round and it seemed like an age when I was getting ready to leave for Bristol for the first fixture of the season.
The majority of pundits will be keen to point out, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then in a roller-coaster season for Rangers.
Make so mistake about it the Rangers revolution is very much underway, but with this season virtually over before Messers Briatore, Ecclestone and Mittal, came to the helm, next season is being hailed as the season that Rangers get back to the big time.
With the Championship in its current state, and with Rangers current form it has to be a possibility to be considered. Putting a bet on however looks set to be lose/lose, 12 months ago you would have got astronomical odds, but now we are set to up there as one of the shortest price. Hard times indeed for the betting community.
This weekend Rangers travel to Carrow Road, the sight of their broken dreams in 1976, when a 3-2 defeat to Norwich, stopped the R`s from claiming what would have been their one and only Division 1 title. There were indeed thoughts of poetic justice with Norwich still not mathematically safe, that Rangers could have a hand in sending them down. With only one place from three up for grabs this looks rather unlikely.
Glen Roeder`s Canaries are looking to give the perfect send off to Dion Dublin and Darren Huckerby who will both be departing in the summer. The latter I recall scoring at Loftus Road on his Coventry debut, incidentally my first visit to Loftus Road.
With Norwich looking to make themselves mathematically safe, and rangers looking to end the season with a bang, it certainly makes for an interesting affair at Carrow Road, infront of a full house.
Luigi De Canio
Luigi De Canio could not hide his delight following a London derby defeat over Charlton Athletic:
‘It was another excellent performance from the boys’
‘Our recent performances have been to a very high standard and yet again, the team played very well today.”
Rangers moved to only three points behind a side who were outsiders for the playoffs before the game, as Gigi continued:
‘The application was excellent and the players showed great maturity and professionalism.”
‘The spirit of the squad is excellent and we kept taking the game to Charlton throughout the 90 minutes.”
‘We need to become a team that is very hard to beat and we are making great strides.’
De Canio also had high praise for Rangers big Jamaican central defender Damion Stewart who started his fourth game in succession:
‘Damion was excellent,’ he said. ‘He’s a really good footballer, but there is still great room for improvement.”
‘When he focuses for the 90 minutes, he is a great asset for us.’
Republic of Ireland Assistant Manager Marco Tardelli, was in the stands and would no doubt have been impressed with captain Martin Rowlands impressive display which earnt him Vital QPR man of the match:
‘I can’t speak highly enough of my captain.”
‘Tardelli was here watching and I’m certain he would have been impressed by Martin’s performance.’
Norwich City Team News:
Dion Dublin will be bashing down Glen Roeder`s door for a start in this their last game at Carrow Road. However with the Canaries not yet mathematically safe, Roeder may punt for top scorer and ex-Rangers player Jamie Cureton and Ched Evans once more as the strike partnership, with Huckerby playing wide.
Dublin did get on the field against West Brom in the 63rd minute. Luke Chadwick, a player who is much maligned for his diving antics amongst sections of the Rangers faithful could also be in line for a start following a successful return from injury against West Brom. It`s a race against time for Chelsea loanee Ryan Bertrand who picked up a hamstring strain against local rivals Ipswich.
Adam Drury, however, is out for the remainder of the season after hobbling off against Bristol City earlier this year.
Player to watch: Jamie Cureton
Canaries hit-man, Jamie Cureton has not lost his goalscoring touch despite a disappointing season for Norwich. His 14 goals in all competitions have been a definite positive in his first season after a prolific spell at Colchester.
Starting his career with Norwich, he endeared himself to the Canaries faithful by dyeing his hair green and yellow for their local derby game against Ipswich, a fixture in which he scored a goal back in 1996. This was not enough however for manager Mike Walker sold him back to his home town team Bristol Rovers for £200k. After a successful 4 year spell at Rovers and 68 goals, Cureton moved onto pastures new and certainly found a home with a newly emerging Reading. He scored 30 goals in his first season for the Royals, including a goal in the Division 2 playoff final where they lost out to Walsall 3-2 in extra time at the Millennium Stadium.
In Rangers first season down, he faced the R`s in a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road, but the Royals got their points at the Madejski Stadium when ex-Canary Andy Hughes scored a fluke goal with the ball hitting his standing foot and rolling in the opposite corner. Cureton is hailed as a cult hero by scoring an equaliser away to Brentford to see the Royals promoted. Rangers` Martin Rowlands has opened the scoring for the Bees.
He helped Reading into the Division 1 playoffs in the subsequent season, but they lost out to Wolves. That ended a prolific spell with the Royals where he scored 50 goals in 74 starts. That prompted Korean outfit Busan I.cons, to sign him, but he was quickly back in England after a fruitless spell. He signed for QPR with the money raised by Our QPR, and got his first goals against Port Vale, a brace in a 3-2 win. However 5 goals later, in a disappointing season, 4 against Coventry, he moved on again to Swindon.
Once again he failed to impress but signed on loan with Colchester, where seemed unstoppable after regaining some confidence. Following promotion he signed for the U`s on a free, and went on to score 23 goals in 44 games, playing twice against the R`s without notching.
This prompted local rivals Norwich to pounce and bring him back to the start of it all. This season Jamie is top scorer with 14 goals in all competitions.
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Rangers top goalscorer Akos Buzsaky is in contention once again for a starting place following a successful half hour against Charlton on Saturday. The Magical Magyar is recovering from an ankle injury picked up on international duty.
With Patrick Agyemang set to miss out once again following his hamstring troubles, Angelo Balanta will get a starting berth upfront alongside the prolific Dexter Blackstock.
Matthew Connolly looks set to return to centre back alongside Damion Stewart after the injury to Fitz Hall at the weekend meaning in all likeliness Michael Mancienne will slot in at right back.
Captain fantastic Martin Rowlands is looking to continue his scintillating form from the middle of the park that has seen him called up for the preliminary Ireland squad also under new Italian guidance.
Player to watch: Dexter Blackstock
Dexter`s confidence is going from strength to strength, and earlier in the season, where frankly he never looked like scoring is an image of vast contrast to what we see before us now.
4 goals in 5 games for Dexter since De Canio has opted to put his faith in a striker bereft of confidence and ideas, but Dexter has hit back with a bang, with goals at home against Preston and Charlton, and away against Wolves and Hull. The latter was without a shadow of a doubt over the line.
Dexter will look to finish the season with a real bang by notching in the final two fixtures, both infront of packed houses.
Match Facts & Stats
It`s only 1 defeat in 12 now for the R`s. This means that Rangers are now unbeaten in 7, and looking to extend that run this weekend, and finish off their last fixture away from home continuing this trend.
As has been well documented the R`s have won only 1 away game this calendar year, away at Southampton. Since then Rangers have drawn 5 away and lost 1.
After a brief resurgence of form at the turn of the year, Norwich City have slipped back into trouble, losing 8 games in their last 12. This included a 4-0 defeat away at relegation rivals Leicester City.
Home form has been a saving grace of late for City, as they defeated both Burnley and earlier, local rivals Colchester 5-1, with a hatrick from Cureton.
HEAD 2 HEAD
The Canaries have the better of the head to head record winning 40 games to the R`s 35, the teams drawing 30 times in the league. The last time the R`s won at Carrow Road was in March 1994 in a 7-goal thriller, with the game ending 4-3.
Last time out
30th December 2006 –Carrow Road
Norwich City 1 (Dublin 69)
Rangers Team: Royce, Bignot, Stewart, Mancienne, Milanese, Gallen (Blackstock 77) Rowlands (Ward 41) Lomas, Cook, Furlong, Jones.
Last time out
8th October 2007 – Loftus Road
QPR 1 (Rowlands 67pen)
Norwich City 0
Rangers Team: Camp, Rowlands, Stewart, Cranie, Barker, Ainsworth (Jarrett 86) Leigertwood, Bolder, Ephraim (Timoska 89) Sahar (Moore 68) Vine.
Referee– PJ Joslin
Assistants – DH Coote & W Porter
Fourth official – EB Mackrell
For a full report on the match official click here
If we can get the upper hand early on we may just deflate a sinking ship, however our recent record is not good away from home or at Carrow Road; That`s why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 1-1 Draw
For all the latest match odds click on www.williamhill.com
Who– West Bromwich Albion
Where– Loftus Road
When– Sunday 4th May. 2:00pm